Nikesh Arora shows his quirky side on Twitter after SoftBank exit

Nikesh Arora fielded questions from journalists, admirers and others on Twitter, hours after he announced he will resign from the Japanese firm

Nikesh Arora will move to an advisory role from 1 July. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Nikesh Arora will move to an advisory role from 1 July. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Nikesh Arora is going to improve his golf handicap and thinks that gaming start-up Supercell, which netted SoftBank some $6 billion in returns, is his best investment. He also thinks that former founder Rahul Yadav has “better things to do than track what’s going on in my life :)”.

Arora disclosed all of this and more on Twitter, where the SoftBank Group Corp. president fielded questions from journalists, admirers and others, hours after he announced he will resign from the Japanese firm. The departure of Arora, who was seen as heir-apparent to SoftBank chairman Masayoshi Son, came as a shock as he was cleared only one day ago of charges related to potential conflict-of-interest as SoftBank president.

Often, companies and executives rarely go beyond press releases when they announce such shocking and stock-moving news.

Also Read: Nikesh Arora resigns from SoftBank as Masayoshi Son sticks on as CEO

Arora, however, went out of his way to chat with the public on Tuesday.

It was amusing to note that the exchanges on Twitter sounded like those between a retiring actor and his doting fans, with people asking him questions like, “A song that you feel like humming right now?”, to which his answer was, “It’s a wonderful life.” He replied to tens of similar tweets.

It’s not often that a corporate executive gets such adulation.

Arora also joked about some of the questions, most of which came from Indians.

Sample this, “Do you know Japanese?” one follower asked, to which he replied “Many.”

“Are you happy in a way that the leash is gone?” someone else asked, to which Arora’s replied, “I have never had a leash... ask my mom.”

Arora, who held senior positions at companies including Google Inc. and T-Mobile, said he took to Twitter to avoid speculation. (“This way I don’t get reinterpreted when I tell the truth,” one of his tweets read.)

The announcement of his exit comes barely a day after he was given the clean chit in an internal probe conducted after a group of unnamed shareholders raised concerns over a potential conflict of interest because of Arora’s role as an adviser to Silver Lake, a private equity firm. These shareholders also said his compensation was too high and questioned his investments in Indian start-ups Snapdeal and real estate portal

Arora will move to an advisory role from 1 July.

He joined SoftBank in the capacity of vice-chairman in September 2014 and became its president and chief operating officer in June 2015. He was widely tipped to succeed Son.

During his tenure, SoftBank picked up large stakes in five Indian start-ups: Snapdeal, Ola, Housing, Oyo Rooms & Grofers. Together, it invested more than $1.5 billion in these start-ups.

“Going to continue to support the Indian startup ecosystem... can’t change faith if you change jobs :)” he tweeted.

Many were also eager to know what his next move was going to be—questions which Arora deflected with ease and humour giving various replies, like “going to chill for a bit” and “the plan is no plan”.

Mint reached out to digital and social media experts for their views on Arora’s interaction on social media after the exit announcement. Here’s what they had to say:

Ashok Lalla, independent digital and marketing adviser:

Nikesh Arora’s social media behaviour is in line with his social media persona ever since he joined SoftBank. Since he was looking at India as an investment avenue he opened the channel of communication through Twitter which no other senior venture capitalist typically allows. He always quotes tweets and responds. I have not seen any gravitas in his comments or any real hint on the reasons of his exit or his next destination. He has kept it light and social. Arora announcing his exit on Twitter is also not something new. However if suddenly he would have gone cold on social media it would have invited speculation. He is a smart guy and uses social media as his ears to the ground.

Nimesh Shah, co-founder, social media agency Windchimes Communications:

Exits don’t have to be so melancholic. I think Nikesh Arora has maintained silence while he was being scrutinized and now Twitter has given him an outlet to give his side of story. A lot of questions that people were throwing at him are classic Twitter questions and he’s just played along. Twitter gave him the platform to speak his mind. He was being witty with funny tweets, honestly replying to serious ones and giving it back to the trolls. This kind of social media behaviour is expected from the industry he belongs to. Just compare his exit to RBI governor Raghuram Rajan and you’ll see the stark difference. Rajan, being associated with government’s regulatory body which impacts a common man’s life, cannot afford to go on social media and respond to every kind of question.

Gopa Kumar, vice-president, Dentsu’s digital agency Isobar India:

I think it is a deviation from the norm where top executives leaving the companies used to be a private or hush-hush affair, mostly announced through a press release.

Rules have changed in the day and age of digital where one would also want to come out his or her version of the story and not be portrayed as a victim. Case in point is the recent exit of Raghuram Rajan and his email to his employees going viral on the web. I believe being proactive helps in creating a positive perception for that individual and help define the narrative that he would want on social and larger web space.